The acid-washed jeans-wearing mulleted janitor star of the 2001 film doesn’t immediately seem like he should be anywhere near a place where professional writers and marketers like ourselves converge.
There are certainly positive life lessons aplenty in this movie – his epic, downright heroic
journey to find himself, overcoming challenges, finding friends, and realizing that the answers were right in front of him all along – the last person who experienced that much self-discovery in under two hours was skipping down the Yellow Brick Road trying get home to Kansas.
In terms of pithy insight, this movie had it in Spade, er, spades: Keep on keepin’ on. Life’s a garden, dig it. If you’re feeling down, look at a clown.
But once you get past the low-brow inane ‘just for laughs’ subject matter that Happy Madison Productions is known for, you actually discover some interesting observations which we can take away as freelance writing professionals.
One big lesson is “It’s not about what you want; it’s what your customers want.”
In case you “forgot” or “haven’t got around to watching it yet,” (deliberately giving everyone the benefit of the doubt here), Joe encounters Kicking Wing, who is having a tough time running a firework stand stocked with only what he wants to sell, which are the safer, saner fireworks that make him happy and he thinks should make everyone else happy.
However, his customers prefer the louder, dangerous pyrotechnics that can hurt themselves or others but look really cool.
Joe, a fan of fireworks himself, convinces Wing to at least experiment with ordering the bigger ones rather than going belly-up because no one wanted to buy what he was selling.
At the end of the movie (spoilers!) we learn that Wing’s business has boomed, in a good way, and he’s using profits to fund veterinary hospitals, especially those that treat firework-related injuries. Rock on!
As writing/marketing professionals for hire, we’re ultimately subject to the whims and wishes of our clients. If they want a particular message to go in a different direction than we think it should, that’s how the game works.
But we can still use our expertise to offer them the best writing abilities we can, or even some sensible suggestions that we recommend might work better, based on our experience in X topic. We can also pull out the big stuff that the other guys don’t sell, and wow them with other organizational tools like how to use a content marketing calendar.
I’m not saying you must write for clients who you philosophically or politically disagree with. Even Joe would say “huh?” to that. There’s also nothing wrong with standing firm or saying “enough” if what a client wants will never be what you want.
But if you always want to do it your way, I’ll say, “One of these days, UNICEF might get into the writing business and then maybe you can talk to them about getting what you want.”
Good news for Joe Dirt fans – it sounds like a sequel will be out this summer!
Writer Bio: Joe B, no relation to Joe D., was surprised how much he liked this movie.